My great-great-great-grandfather’s farm, originally christened “Mt. Pleasant” in the early 19th century, was renamed “Klondike” in the late-19th century, when one of his grandchildren headed to Alaska with dreams of striking it rich in the Klondike goldfields. We have a box of crumbling letters he wrote home to his mother, assuring her of his good health, and also recounting stories of his new friend Jack London. Unfortunately, no riches accompanied his time in the goldfields, only many interesting tales, and a new name for his childhood home.
My interest was immediately piqued, then, by Gold City, a crossroads community in Simpson County, Kentucky. I rolled into Gold City ahead of a huge thunderstorm, and gathered many odd looks from the patrons at the very busy Gold City Grocery Store. It’s so rare to find a crossroads store still in operation, and not sliding into a romantic ruin, that I fear I clapped my hands together in glee! I would have looked askance at myself as well…
Gold City is located six and a half miles east of the county seat of Franklin, located at the intersection of KY 265 and 622. The story is that while digging a well, some rocks were uncovered that appeared to be “gold-bearing.” This caused a tiny furor of excitement in Simpson County before the discovery that the rocks were, after all, worthless and just – rocks. The post office in Temperance (echoes of Carrie Nation?) was moved to Gold City on February 8, 1886. The post office closed in 1909.
A historic marker in Gold City recounts the three days in September 1862 that Captain N.B. Forrest’s CSA Calvary camped nearby at the farm of a Union sympathizer named Stephen Barnes. (I imagine that was a tense situation.) A month later, these men would move onto Perryville, Kentucky, and there are many scholars better equipped than I to tell the story of that bloody conflict and strategic victory for the Union.
Across from the Gold City Grocery store is the Gold City Mill, now no longer in business. The front gable mill building remains, as do metal grain bins and sheds. A friend of mine from nearby Warren County remembers his father going there to get a special feed for his livestock.
As I always do when I come across these fascinating places in Kentucky, I dig around for some history. I didn’t find much, and as I was trying to beat the storm and get to my destination, I failed to go into the store and just ask. I always get the best stories in places like that…The one item I turned up was in the June 8, 1907 edition of the Hopkinsville, Kentuckian. A small blurb recounted a tale of wickedness between those two wonderfully-named villages of Gold City and Temperance. Watch out for your vegetables!